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How Many Slaves Work on Your Behalf?

Products you use may be made by the slave labor of others -- discover how many of your favorite products may be supporting this abuse, and what you can do to stop it.

by Jane Keegan, RDC

A few years ago, within the Sisters of the Divine Compassion community, our Social Justice Board encouraged us to check and reduce our carbon footprint, to help save our planet.  Eager to make a difference, I found small ways I could reduce my carbon footprint at home.  

I eagerly switched my light bulbs in as many places I could from incandescent to CFLs (compact fluorescent lights). I also changed the cleaning products I used to ones with plant-based ingredients that were more environmentally beneficial.  I walked to nearby places instead of driving. I felt I was helping to sustain our planet.

Now it has been suggested that we also check our “slavery footprint.”  

It’s hard to believe, but many of the products we rely on or use on a regular basis have come into being through “slave labor.”

I was shocked to learn that, by State Department estimates, there are 27 million slaves globally—a slave being “anyone forced to work without pay, being economically exploited, or unable to walk away” from their situation.

We may have heard, for example, that cotton fabrics are healthier and better for your skin. What we don’t know when we buy a cotton product is where the cotton is coming from. Today young children in Uzbekistan are being forced to pick cotton in the fields, a very painful and painstaking work.

For another example, to quote from a New York Times article, Slavery Becomes a Personal Question Online, “Every day, tens of thousands of women buy makeup. And every day tens of thousands of Indian children mine mica which produces the little sparkles in the makeup.”

You can learn more about this form of forced labor in the New York Times article http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/22/business/22slaves.html and on the website www.slaveryfootprint.org.

“Do you know how many slaves work on your behalf?”  

Do you know where the materials in your coffee, your computer, your smart phone, your iPad are coming from?   

You may be as shocked as I was when you visit the website www.slaveryfootprint.org and take the quiz.  

Perhaps this Lent is a call to not only check our slavery footprint, but more importantly to find ways to reduce it. Spread the word. Tell your friends and colleagues.  If we can be instrumental in freeing one person from some form of enslavement, we will have done something very worthwhile indeed.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Laura Beth Kerr Gilman March 12, 2012 at 02:10 AM
Thank you for writing and posting this article. I will, indeed, research how to become a more conscious and conscientious consumer. It is an ongoing lesson, I am afraid!
Terry Young March 13, 2012 at 12:01 PM
Jane, "...And every day tens of thousands of Indian children mine mica which produces the little sparkles in the makeup.” And I'm not sure I look any better if I wear makeup! Thanks forthe information. Terry
MaryBeth Maney March 14, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Jane, as always you create a stimulating message-kudos for its practicality, and thanks! MaryBeth Maney
Wonderboy March 14, 2012 at 07:29 PM
I didn't bother reading this whole article, so what are we to do? Everyone wants their cheap Ikea furniture, underwear and appliances, so what are we to do? For every one thig I try to do to make a difference, somewhere in this world 1,000 people are not. Screw it, I'm enjoying my life.
Susan M Greene,diGA-RDC April 01, 2012 at 07:13 PM
What do you do? Be one of those who care and are willing to build a new humanity of peace and justice...work for universal brotherhood.

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